"Forgiveness 2016" Sticker Absolves Our Oppressors of Guilt
By now you've probably seen this disgusting bumper sticker depicting a figure outfitted in a Confederate flag kicking a figure in a rainbow flag. The decal's authenticity as a Trump 2016 has been called into question, but even if it's not an official piece of merchandise (and I highly doubt that it is), the message is pretty clear, and it's gross.
This is why all LGBT people and all supporters of LGBT rights need to go out and vote for Hillary Clinton on November 8th. pic.twitter.com/REwrySgvqNâ€” Sam Kalidi (@samkalidi) October 16, 2016
I don't need to go into any kind of extensive detail describing the type of person who would be willing to put this sticker on their car. We've certainly seen them throughout the campaign, and I've certainly written my fair share about them.
In the recent days, though, there's been another drawing that's surfaced that's been shared widely on Facebook and other social media sites. It depicts the same figures, except the rainbow-clad person is embracing the Confederate figure with the title, "Forgiveness 2016."
My response to this new graphic? Very simply, it's "no."
I get that the intention is good. I get that people want to cross lines and build bridges and all of that happy touchy-feely emotionally-satisfying mumbo jumbo. It's also incredibly naive and abusive.
For decades LGBT people have been tasked with forgiving those who want to cause us real harm. We've had to fight (and we're still fighting) for the right to simply live in happiness and safety - and with every battle won we're supposed to forgive those who worked to harm us, without any repentance or apology on their part.
The people represented by the Confederate figure are abusers and oppressors. They have dedicated themselves to tearing apart our families, to imprisoning us for existing, to demonizing us for using the bathrooms, for inflicting violence upon us, and so much more. One need not have a doctorate in history to understand the horrific intentions and impact this group has had on LGBT now and in the past.
If someone who was anti-LGBT wants to apologize for all of the harm they've caused us - if they want to actively take ownership of the damage they've done and re-dedicate themselves to undoing it? I will gladly sit down with them and work towards forgiveness, without a doubt. But true repentance takes work. It doesn't happen over night, and it has to come with the understanding that much of the harm that's been caused can never be undone.
To expect LGBT people to blindly forgive those who cause us harm simply because it will make our oppressors feel better about themselves? Absolutely not. We've been conditioned over the past few years to believe that it's upon us to make amends with those who wish to harm us. We've told ourselves that in order to not be "sore winners" we have to bury some of our pride and welcome those who hate us back into our lives.
The problem is, though, that they've never truly repented. In fact, they've continued to come after us. The same people who were fighting against decriminalizing homosexuality were the same folks fighting against allowing gay people to be teachers, were the same folks fighting against civil unions, were the same folks fighting marriage equality, are the same folks fighting against trans rights.
We continue to forgive our abusers and oppressors and they continue to abuse and oppress us, because we think it will make them like us better.
The day someone comes to me with a true change of heart - in true repentance and with a dedicated mandate to work to undo the legacy they created - I will be there with patient and open arms.
In the meantime, though, I'm not going to post a sticker simply to make someone who hates me feel better about themselves. It's not fair to them and it's certainly not fair to me.
Robbie Medwed is an Atlanta-based LGBT activist and educator. His column appears here weekly. Follow him on Twitter: @rjmedwed.
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